The bankers who finance St John’s College – where most stipended priests in this province are trained – have issued a clear warning: the costs of running the place are, in the long run, unsustainable.
And those bankers – the St John’s College Trust Board (SJCTB) – have told General Synod that things are likely to change because the SJCTB, in conjunction with Te Kotahitanga, is reviewing the college funding to “identify a more appropriate funding model.”
Stephen Jacobi, chairman of the SJCTB, presented the board’s report to synod yesterday. This showed investment capital of $293 million, which last year generated $11.4 million income and enabled it to distribute $12 million to beneficiaries across the three tikanga.
Mr Jacobi said he was proud to report that “even at the height of the financial crisis the Trust’s funding of education and ministry was not disrupted.”
However, the “challenging financial context” in which the SJCTB operates had caused it “to focus new attention on the quality of our expenditure.”
While the SJCTB trustees were pleased to see positive changes at St John’s, they “remain concerned at the high costs of operating St John’s College both in terms of the size of the operating expenditure ($4.6 million in 2013, down slightly from $4.9 million in 2012), as well as the current and future costs associated with maintaining a large number of college properties.
“Trustees are mindful,” he said, "of the significant value the church derives from a fully-funded, residential seminary, but from a financial viewpoint these costs are unsustainable."
The SJCTB – in association with Te Kotahitanga, which exercises governance of the college – would review funding at the college “which will hopefully help us identify a more appropriate funding model.”
Stakeholders’ views, he said, would be sought before final decisions were made.
Mr Jacobi said that during the past year the SJCTB had developed a template for measuring the effectiveness “in terms of education and mission” of the Trust’s funding of other beneficiaries.
“We are grateful to those ministry units who have participated in a number of pilot evaluations which have yielded valuable information for Te Kotahitanga and Trustees.
“In particular, I would like to congratulate the Diocese of Polynesia for showing us how wisely and carefully St John’s funding is used in education projects in Fiji.
“As faithful stewards, we must always ask ourselves how well we are doing: the further roll out of our evaluation template will assist us in prioritising future expenditure.”
The good news
While Mr Jacobi was delivering worrying news about St John’s College, he had nothing but good news about Te Aute and Hukarere.
Until the SJCTB assumed trusteeship of the Te Aute Trust Board (by agreement with Te Pihopatanga), those two iconic Maori Anglican schools had been hanging by a thread.
The debt hanging over the schools stood at $9.5 million.
So the immediate priority of the new Trustees, he said, had been “to stabilise the financial position of the Trust and establish new governance structures.
“This has been achieved. I am pleased to report that both Te Aute and Hukarere are in good spirits, rolls are improving and the leadership and students are firmly focused on the future.
“I … stand before you today to confirm that Te Aute and Hukarere have been placed on a much firmer footing and no immediate threat hangs over the schools’ continuing existence.”
“It has taken our whole three-tikanga church to come to the aid of these schools through the St John’s College Trust.
“This issue that earlier threated to divide this Hinota Whanui need no longer do so.”
Heartfelt thanks came from Bishop John Gray to both the SJCTB and the wider church for the way they had helped the schools.
Bishop John, who has long struggled to save the two schools, said "the work that has been done is exceptional, and it has given us great hope.”
Speaking with emotion, Bishop John said Tikanga Maori could look at is partners and say "thank you” for the contributions they had each made.
• To read the full SJCTB report, click here